Towards a solver-aware systems architecting framework: leveraging experts, specialists and the crowd to design innovative complex systems

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Cambridge University Press


This article proposes the solver-aware system architecting framework for leveraging the combined strengths of experts, crowds and specialists to design innovative complex systems. Although system architecting theory has extensively explored the relationship between alternative architecture forms and performance under operational uncertainty, limited attention has been paid to differences due to who generates the solutions. The recent rise in alternative solving methods, from gig workers to crowdsourcing to novel contracting structures emphasises the need for deeper consideration of the link between architecting and solver-capability in the context of complex system innovation. We investigate these interactions through an abstract problem-solving simulation, representing alternative decompositions and solver archetypes of varying expertise, engaged through contractual structures that match their solving type. We find that the preferred architecture changes depending on which combinations of solvers are assigned. In addition, the best hybrid decomposition-solver combinations simultaneously improve performance and cost, while reducing expert reliance. To operationalise this new solver-aware framework, we induce two heuristics for decomposition-assignment pairs and demonstrate the scale of their value in the simulation. We also apply these two heuristics to reason about an example of a robotic manipulator design problem to demonstrate their relevance in realistic complex system settings.



open innovation, systems architecture, modularity, design process, systems engineering, solver-aware system architecting, crowdsourcing, design heuristics